Raising children in a technology age is much easier when your kids are a little older, because they have so many gadgets, websites and educational games that can keep them occupied and learning.
Unfortunately, it's not so easy for toddlers. Little children under 4 years old often find it difficult to navigate through many children's games - most of which feature large words and complicated rules that toddlers aren't ready for yet.
Luckily, there are a number of toddler games out there that fill this need for both parents as well as preschool teachers and daycare providers.
One such program is called Minisebran. It's a free educational program that targets very young children that are just learning the basics, like colors, objects, letters and numbers.
Mini-Sebran Main Screen
The layout of this program is simple enough so that a very small child can easily navigate without any struggle at all. The software consists of eight learning activities, and the link to each activity is a very large square that takes up nearly a big section of the screen. So long as the toddler can use the mouse, they should have no problem clicking on one of the activities.
The first activity is a simple letter activity. As the child clicks on each letter, they will hear the letter spoken aloud by a narrator. The background of that letter also turns blue, so that the toddler knows what letters they've already clicked on. The color change also provides a feedback to the toddler, in addition to the voice. This makes the process more like a game, as the child tries to fill up the entire screen with blue, they will hear each letter spoken aloud.
The second activity is probably the one that young children will enjoy the most. This is a freestyle drawing activity where the child can create any picture that their imagination can come up with. They can choose colors to draw with from the left, and then a template on the write.
The squiggly lines are freestyle drawing modes where the mouse pointer becomes a pencil of sorts. The other images are picture templates that children can use inside their drawing - like an ink stamp that will place that image anywhere they like.
The counting activity will not only help toddlers learn how to recognize numbers from 0 to 9, but it also helps them start understanding how to count objects. As they click on each number, that number of objects will display at the bottom of the screen.
Like the previous number activity, the background of the clicked number turns blue. However, in addition to that, children will start to make the correlation between identifying the number, and recognizing how that number represents a number of things in the real world. This is a critical skill for young children to learn, because it forms the foundation of learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide later on.
Drawing and Letters
In a slightly different take on the drawing activity, there's also a letter-drawing activity where toddlers can freestyle-draw on top of a letter on the screen. This is a fun way to get children to explore their creative side while actively getting exposure to letters of the alphabet. To make it fun, this activity could be used in preschool, and children could be challenged to draw objects on the screen that begin with the letter that is displayed.
Drawing on Objects
Another fun activity, like the letter drawing activity, is another activity where children can start with an object and then draw freestyle over it. This is a really fun way for kids to just open up and express their creativity. It's amazing to see just how different the pictures look when different children are done decorating their own screen.
Identifying Patterns and Differences
Another important skill for young toddlers to learn early on is identifying patterns in a group of objects. In this activity, children are presented with a group of objects that are very similar, but one of those objects is different than the rest. It might be a different color, a different shape, or both. The young toddler just needs to click on the one different object, and they'll see a smiley face appear if they are right.
Getting a Little Help
If there is ever an activity that is too complicated for the toddler to figure out, there is a help area that parents can check by clicking on the question mark at the bottom of the screen. A pop-up window with instructions on how the activity works appears on the screen. Obviously, younger toddlers will need a parent's help to read the instructions.
For toddlers that are just learning their basic colors, the color activity is perfect. Clicking on each color, the young child will hear the name of the color spoken aloud. This is nearly as good as a parent or teacher standing right next to the child, pointing to the color and saying the name of the color to the child.
Finally, probably one of the most effective activities in Minisebran is the typing activity. In this section, children are presented with a letter and told to press the letter on the keyboard. This is an excellent first step for children to eventually learn how to type using a computer keyboard. Within education today, typing is a critical skill, and the earlier children become accustomed to the keyboard the better.
Of all of the computer games and other programs that toddlers could play with on the computer these days, applications like Minisebrans are a better choice. They not only keep young children entertained, but they provide young toddlers with a head start on the most important skills that they'll need later on in their educational lives.
Minisebran is multilingual and runs in Catalan, Esperanto, English, French, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Swedish. New languages can be added. Minisebran is freeware.
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